Archive for the ‘English - general issues’ Category

Sarawak aims to improve students’ standard of English.

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

KUCHING: Sarawak will “intervene” to improve the standard of English among students in the state.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said this was necessary because the general perception of the public, especially employers, was that the standard of English was declining despite the Education Ministry’s initiatives to improve it.

In addition, he said the state Education Department often had insufficient funds to cover the wide geographic distribution and remote location of many schools in Sarawak.

“The state government can intervene and support the department in critical areas such as training teachers to be more proficient in English.

The three-day symposium was organised by the state Education, Science and Technological Research Ministry and attended by over 800 English language teachers, school administrators, academics and researchers.

Abang Johari also said he would continue to pursue the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s policy of using Bahasa Malaysia and English to ensure that Sarawakians are proficient in both languages.

“While we are just as patriotic and protective as other Malaysians about the status of Bahasa Malaysia as our national and official language, we need to be pragmatic and recognise that for us to succeed internationally, we must also master the global language of business and technology,” he said.

Abang Johari added that promoting the use of English among students was not enough to upgrade its standard in Sarawak.
Read more @

English: Being proficient in a language needs practice

Thursday, October 26th, 2017
Students in an English language class. Having more subjects in English is the best way to boost one’s proficiency. (FILE PIC)

STARTING next year, imported English textbooks instead of locally produced ones will be used in schools. This is part of the Education Ministry’s move to implement the new Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR).

The CEFR is a guide developed by the Council of Europe to gauge foreign language proficiency. From next year, preschoolers, Year One and Two pupils and Form One and Two students will start off with the curriculum, according to Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan.

He said the ministry would “buy off-the-shelf books” to cater to schools because locally produced textbooks are not able to meet the new CEFR levels. Primary school pupils will use Super Minds from Cambridge University Press, while secondary students will read Macmillan’s Pulse 2.

According to the Macmillan website, Pulse 2 provides an integrated approach to skills so that students can develop receptive and productive skills while perfecting their communication competence. Super minds comprises a seven-level course that enhances young learners’ thinking skills, memory and language skills as described in the Cambridge website. Teachers are being trained and the books were already available in all schools.

We have, over the decades, been trying different ways and means to improve the students’ command of English. In 2003, the PPSMI was introduced, emphasising the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English from Standard One. The aim was to address the deteriorating standard of English among our students. In 2009, the strategy was reversed. This time around, Mathematics and Science were again taught in Bahasa Malaysia. We didn’t really get to measure the result because the system was stopped halfway.

At present, English is taught in schools as one of the examination subjects. In secondary schools, English is taught for only three hours per week. After class, most students will speak in their mother tongue.

In my opinion, those who spend more time speaking in English in school and after, will find the new textbooks interesting. I am sure this group can excel and eventually raise the CEFR standard. But, what about the rest?

We have to bear in mind that language is a skill. Having more subjects in English is the best way to boost one’s proficiency. We are certain that students have more time to use the English language. Unfortunately, when the policy was reversed, students only learnt English as a subject.

In my many years of teaching language, I found that the best approach is to start language classes as early as 6 years old. Parents in urban areas normally speak English to their children as young as one-year-old. That is why children in urban areas generally speak better English. Stephen Krashen’s widely known and well-accepted theory of language acquisition underlines this fact, stating that language needs to be acquired and not learned. We should, therefore, focus on encouraging “acquisition”, providing input that stimulates the subconscious mind.

According to research, the best time to start learning a second language is during early adolescence, when one is between 7 and 13 years of age. Having more subjects in the earlier years of schooling may help. However, efforts to consolidate the role of our national language, Bahasa Malaysia, should not be compromised.

When discussing about student fluency in the English language, it is imperative that we also look at what we want to achieve. If highly advanced textbooks are introduced to students with generally lower proficiency levels, the likelihood of a mismatch between the learning and teaching objectives will be greater. When this happens students are going to shut off when it comes to learning English.

We must also remember that language is a skill — the more we practise the better we become. We need to speak and practise the language, whether it’s Mandarin, Arabic, English or other languages.

If we continue to treat English as a second or third language and as examination subjects, we cannot expect things to change drastically. It is for the same reason that the academic standard of proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia occasionally slumps, even among native speakers.

We can find many examples to support the notion that practice is fundamental to language proficiency. For example, there are many straight As students who scored distinctions in Arabic at the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia level, but are not able to speak the language after they left school, because they do not “use” the language. Similarly, I know many of my students who studied in Chinese vernacular schools for six years but are now finding it difficult to maintain the high standard of the Mandarin language for lack of practice.


Read more @

Learning English is more than just grammar

Thursday, October 26th, 2017
Good language learning only takes place if there’s good language teaching. For that to happen, language teachers need to be proficient, confident and motivated.( FILE PIC)

NURZEHERRA Mukhtar is an English teacher at SK Perol in Kota Baru, Kelantan. With eight years of teaching experience, this graduate in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) said over time, her use of the language had steadily decreased. In Kelantan, she added, most of the English teachers use the translation method to teach the language.

For Wilson Freni Affrin, living at a place that does not provide ample opportunities to communicate in English makes it tough for him to “stay on track”. An English teacher at SK Sungai Liam in Miri, Sarawak, he said even with 26 years of teaching experience, he still had to constantly create an environment for him to listen to correct the usage of English.

With everyday use of simple words during lessons, teaching at a primary school is also one reason that can reduce one’s repertoire of vocabulary in the language. A teacher’s daily conversation in English was restricted to the four walls of her language classroom, said Sabarina Othman, another English teacher from Penang.

These three teachers were among those who shared their challenges to remain proficient as English language teachers during the Professional Upskilling of English Language Teachers (PRO-ELT) Symposium 2017 held recently at the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) in Negri Sembilan. During the three-day conference, English teachers nationwide shared ideas and best practices on continuing professional development, with focus on proficiency.

Maintaining proficiency to teach effectively is one key issue which affects the quality of English teachers in the country. To be able to teach the language, it is obviously hard without the requisite level of English.

It is easier for us who are not in their shoes to condemn and criticise their lack of proficiency, but we must also understand their struggles and efforts towards becoming effective teachers.

Teaching requires teachers to concentrate more on accuracy, such as the mechanical and semantic aspects of the language, and less on speaking and fluency. Over time, their speaking skills can decline. In some parts of the country, English can be a foreign language for some students due to the lack of exposure to the language.

Nurzeherra said it could be demoralising when no one spoke the same language if you taught in a rural area. Wilson claimed that the challenge for him was to think in English and not in his mother tongue.

Both agreed that practising and perfecting their own English was a must as language teachers. Wilson said to improve language proficiency, a teacher definitely needed awareness of the simplest and silliest mistakes that one could make while using the language.

While reading English newspapers, books and magazines was a common approach for both teachers, Nurzeherra said she sometimes read aloud in front of the mirror to practise her pronunciation. Sabarina said English teachers must take initiatives to create an English-speaking environment beyond the language classroom in school to maintain their grasp of the language.

It is easier to assume that a native speaker of the language is an appropriate model for all learners of English. But, English operates as a global lingua franca, and the great majority of communication in the language is between people who come from non-Anglo backgrounds. Globally, there are many more “second” language speakers of English than there are first language speakers.

It might be harder for a non-native speaker to teach the language, but it can be more effective for teaching as they have been through the process of learning the language themselves.

These teachers are also trained to teach the language so they are in a better place to help students with any language difficulties; especially if they are teaching students who share their mother tongue.

Good language learning only takes place if there’s good language teaching. For that to happen, language teachers need to be proficient, confident and motivated.

ELTC is taking the lead to provide continuing quality professional development to raise the standard of the country’s English language teachers to be on a par with international standards.

Professional development programmes need not be expensive and should be designed to meet differing needs, keep teachers motivated and raise teachers’ awareness of their potential. However, to seek out professional development, teachers must first be motivated to improve.

The primary purpose of language is communication. Language learning is developed through interaction and engaging use of the language.

Language pedagogy has come a long way since the days when repetitive grammar-translation methods are the only way to learn. Grammar is important but one cannot learn a language through mechanical exercises only.

Perhaps, teachers should function as a guide to motivate students to be responsible for their own learning process, just as teachers must also be responsible for their own learning process to be an effective language teacher.

From the curriculum to the culture and geography of a country, no doubt, the route to success in language teaching lies in a complex multitude of factors.


Read more @

Need For State Intervention To Improve Students’ English Standard – Abang Johari

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

KUCHING, Oct 23 (Bernama) — There is a need for state intervention to improve the standard of English among students in Sarawak , said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Despite the many initiatives of the Ministry of Education to improve the standard of English among students in schools, he said, the general consensus of the public, especially employers, was that it was declining.

He said that one of the constraints faced by the Sarawak Education Department was that the budget allocated was often insufficient because of the wide geographic distribution of schools and the remote location of many of these schools in the state.

“The state government can intervene and support the Education Department in critical areas such as training of teachers not only to be more proficient in the language but also to become more creative and innovative; provide teaching and learning resources and support extra-curricular activities that encourage students to use the language such as debates, drama, elocution contests, and essay competitions,” he said.

Abang Johari said this when officiating the Sarawak English Language Education Symposium ‘Connecting the Dots: Curriculum, Classroom and Community’ (SELES) 2017 here today.

Also present were Minister of Education, Science, and Technological Research Sarawak Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong and Assistant Minister Dr Annuar Rapa’ee.

Abang Johari further said, SELES 2017 was an example of what the state could do to assist the department.

“As stated by Minister of Education, Science, and Technological Research Sarawak (Manyin), the outcome of this symposium will help us to chart our programmes and initiatives.

“I also sincerely hope that the deliberations in this symposium will arouse interest, inspire and empower the participants of this symposium to become more passionate about their roles and bring significant improvements in the proficiency of our students in English,” he said.


Read more @

Raising English language proficiency in schools

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017
Participating teachers learn innovative teaching methods during a training session.

Participating teachers learn innovative teaching methods during a training session.

FROM 2012 to 2017, GAB Foundation has invested close to RM5mil in the English Enrichment Training Programme (EETP), benefitting 465 teachers from 286 schools across seven states.

To date, the supplementary English classes have improved verbal and written proficiency of the English language of over 7,400 pupils nationwide.

The EETP aims to help teachers enhance their English language teaching skills. The programme provides interactive methodologies that help improve students’ interest during English lessons.

Participating teachers attend a four-day intensive training programme, led by early childhood education and English language experts, and are encouraged to apply their knowledge in supplementary English classes with their pupils over 20 weeks.

The sixth and most recent EETP concluded on Sept 28, effectively reaching out to 65 teachers from 56 schools in seven states. The programme benefited more than 1,400 pupils including those from SJK (T) Ladang Senama in Negeri Sembilan.

SJK (T) Ladang Senama participating teacher Dhanalechmy Krishnan, who has been teaching English for 15 years at the school, commented, “I am glad to have participated in the programme as it taught me more engaging teaching methods such as dramatisation, reader’s theatre and games. These methods not only help to improve students’ English proficiency, but also boost their overall confidence.”

“Pupils enjoy attending these classes – they try their best not to miss it. Parents are also very supportive,” she added.

The school’s headmistress Sakinah Abdullah is delighted that pupils are very positive.

“The English Language exam results for UPSR has improved. The pupils here do not have the opportunity to go for tuition and this programme really encourages them.

“I want pupils to be able to communicate in English. I don’t want them to feel inferior. With knowledge and language, they can build a better life and hopefully be somebody in the future,” she said.

Foo Soon Ching, parent to an EETP participating student at SJK(T) Ladang Senama, is pleased at the positive impact EETP has had on her daughter.

“Over the past few months, I have observed her enthusiasm for the language grow and she is now more confident when speaking, reading and writing in English,” added Foo.

EETP lead trainer Amy Bala said, “Over the past six years, EETP has significantly contributed to raising English proficiency, particularly at the underprivileged schools. As an example, SJK (T) Ladang Senama’s pre- and post-test results recorded improvement in the areas of listening by 23%, reading and understanding by 20% and writing by 20%.

Read more @

Employers value workers with good English

Sunday, October 15th, 2017
NIE Specialist Vincent D’Silva (standing right) with Grand Bluewave Hotel general manager Long Cheow Siong observing the students at the workshop. (pix by VINCENT D’SILVA)

JOHOR BARU: The reality of the workforce today is that employers are looking for qualified workers who are not just skillful in their field, but also competent in English communication.

Grand BlueWave Hotel general manager, Long Cheow Siong told participants at the New Straits Times-Newspaper in Education (NST-NIE), who comprised 95 Form Six students, that prospective employers valued candidates who possessed the soft skills that can carry themselves through in their career progression.

The half-day workshop was co-organised by the Johor English Language Teaching Association (Jelta) and Johor Education Department with support from the hotel.

Jelta president Vincent D’Silva conducted the workshop.

According to Long, English is the major language used for communication in most work places in the private sector. He said the language is a tool used in crossborder business dealings and networking with international counterparts.

“There is a certain benchmark for companies to penetrate the market. English plays a pivotal role in distinguishing which companies have that extra edge against its competitors,” said Long in special talk he gave to the Form Six students.

He told them that it was essential to master the English language not only for the sake of passing examinations, but to ensure they can secure a job later on in the future.

“Many of those I had interviewed in the past possess qualificiations for jobs in accountancy, hospitality and tourism fields, but some of them lacked the proficiency in English. I could see this when they were expressing their thoughts and opinions orally,” he said.

He said most employers these days were looking beyond good grades in English.

“Candidates for jobs must posses a good command of spoken English.

“It is very crucial for our youth, who will be joining the workforce in the future, to be able to speak English professionally. They need to become fluent speakers of the language as they also reflect the company’s good name when they are meeting with potential customers or considering career enhancement elsewhere,” he said.

Meanwhile Johor Baru District Education Office’s English unit for secondary schools officer, Al Mujani Abdul Rahman said an initiative to further increase English proficiency among school students in the state was carried out in the past two years under the Education Ministry’s ‘Highly Immersive Programme’ (HIP), which focuses on the usage of English language in school activities.

“Since the start of the programme in Johor two years ago, 10 schools were made to observed the HIP initiative.

“This year, the number increased to 60 schools statewide. By next year, there will be a total of 150 primary and secondary schools in the state that will be adopting HIP,” he said.

Al Mujani said based on his observations of students in the district, a majority of them are able to write and express their thoughts and opinions in English on paper, but they have difficulties conversing fluently in the language.

“They either do not have the confidence to speak or they do not understand the words they are trying to say which became a limitation for some of them,” he said.

Al Mujani welcomed the advocacy of English proficiency as recently stated by Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, who is the Royal Patron of the Malaysian English Language Teaching Associaton.

“This is why the Johor Education Department is working closely with Jelta to address this issue with students and teaching professional via platforms such as the NST-NIE workshop.

“We hope to colloborate more in future with Jelta and the New Straits Times in this effort to improve the mastery of the English language among our students,” he said.

Jelta president Vincent D’Silva, an English lecturer who has been conducting NST-NIE workshops for the past 19 years, said students will find the NST to be the best tool in helping them to enhance their command of English.

He said the newspaper was a flexible teaching tool that can be used in all areas of curriculum, in all aspects of the different syllabus in schools.

“It is for every level and age, encompassing everyone irregardless of their level of competency. What is important is the reader must fully understand what they are reading and make full use of the news content in the paper to improve their command in English,” said D’Silva

One of the participants, Syarifah Syafiah Syed Mustafa, 18, from SMK Sultan Ismail she had joined the workshop to get insight on English requirements that employers look for.

“I know English is not just about writing but also being able to express ourselves in the language, as we would be meeting or socialising with others using English as a professional language,” she said.

By Halim Said.

Read more @

English Language Roadmap 2015-2025 To Elevate Teaching Skills

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

NILAI, Oct 13 (Bernama) — Developing and upskilling the average teacher to re-brand the entire teaching profession is no longer seen as an impossible mission, said Education deputy director Datuk Dr Amin Senin.

He said the biggest gains in the country’s education system would come from elevating the standards and upgrading the skills and competency of teachers to create a high-quality workforce.

“Therefore, it is incumbent upon educators to continue refining their skills in accordance to what is outlined in the Malaysian Education Blueprint and the English Language Roadmap 2015-2025,” he said at the closing ceremony of the Professional Upskilling of English Language Teachers Symposium 2017 at the English Language Teaching Centre, Bandar Enstek, here today.

His speech was read by Education deputy director of Curriculum Development Division Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar.

He said the English Language Roadmap 2015-2025, a product of the English Language Standards and Quality Council and an extension of the blueprint, set out to do precisely this.


Read more @

Language matters for learners

Sunday, October 8th, 2017
Pupils putting their English language proficiency to the test during a Newspaper In Education (NIE) activity. - File photo

Pupils putting their English language proficiency to the test during a Newspaper In Education (NIE) activity. – File photo

TO communicate effectively in the English language, students have to be linguistically competent and proficient in the language.

They need to be equipped with the linguistic repertoire to communicate effectively in the language.

Focal knowledge and tacit knowledge are important elements in learning a language.

Focal knowledge of a language can be taught in the classroom.

It equips the learner with the set of prescriptive rules and steps to be followed to produce language.

Tacit knowledge on the other hand, is a class of knowledge that is difficult to teach and communicate to the learner.

Tacit knowledge is the unwritten, unspoken and hidden vast storehouse of knowledge on language learning that is based on an individual’s emotions, experiences, insights, intuition and internalised information.

Tacit knowledge is a class of knowledge that is difficult to communicate.

The tacit knowledge is the knowledge that we have without knowing we know it.

The vast majority of our children come from the rural and remote areas in the country.

With their limited exposure to the language outside the language classroom, these children are severely impoverished in their English language competence and performance.

Though they may be linguistically competent in knowing the rules and order of the language, they may not be able to communicate effectively. Therefore it is a grave injustice expecting our children in primary and secondary schools to speak and write impeccable English, based solely on the teaching and learning of the language in school.

Children who successfully acquire the language come from English speaking homes or backgrounds. They have focal and tacit knowledge of the language because of their rich language environment.

It is virtually impossible to master any language without practice and usage of the language outside the classroom.

Malaysian University English Test (MUET) examiners find pre-university candidates grappling with the English language when they are tested on the speaking component.

The students are unable to share and articulate their thoughts on simple everyday issues.

They are not able to elaborate or expand on a given situation.

There is a lot of hesitation in their speaking presentation.

They lack confidence, fluency and accuracy in their delivery.

Therefore it is not surprising that most of our university graduates lack soft and communication skills in English during job interviews.

Learning the language needs active participation, interaction and exposure to the language.

The students should be given an environment where they can have the opportunity to practice the language in a wider and larger scale.

Short term measures and knee jerk reactions will not be able to fill this void that our students are facing in the teaching and learning of English in school.

Long term measures require the Education Ministry to consult the stakeholders – parents, teachers , Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia and education groups to review and revise their policies on English teaching and learning.

We need English language immersion programmes that can equip the learner with both focal and tacit knowledge.

Read more @

Parents: Can teachers cope with new standards?

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Stakeholders welcome the use of imported textbooks, but are sceptical about whether teachers will be able to cope with the foreign standards.

Parent Action Group for Educa­tion Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said having the “right” textbooks was vital.

“There are many English textbooks that are better than the ones published specifically for our schools,” she said.

“The problem lies not with the books but the quality of teachers.

She added that while the nation was moving towards the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages-centric (CEFR) syllabus, which was a good move, the parents’ group had reservations, noting that having these books required time and effort to ensure its benefits.

“Textbooks can change, but everything has to follow suit,” she said.

Noor Azimah also said teachers needed to change their ways to adapt to the new curriculum to improve the quality of English language teaching.

“The problem will also come from designing test papers, which teachers are tasked with,” she said.

Parent Choo Yen Li agreed that the switch to imported textbooks was a good move.

However, she said it was important that any problems be identified during the roll-out and be solved immediately.

This would lessen the pressure on students, teachers and parents, she added.

“Our education system and its direction constantly changes,” said the mother of two primary school pupils.

Secondary school English teacher Mohd Sirhajwan Idek said what mattered most was the approach teachers adopted in using the materials effectively.

The National Teacher Icon Award winner added that it was essential for teachers to keep improving themselves and upgrading their skills through the Continuing Professional Development programme.

Educationist Devinder Raj ex­­press­ed scepticism about the fo­­reign textbooks
Read more @

Imported books will improve language skills, say experts.

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Experts believe that imported English books will lead to better usage of the language among schoolchildren.

Welcoming the move, Prof Dr Zuraidah Mohd Don from Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Languages and Linguistics said the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) had become the de facto international standard for language education because it incorporated the best of current knowledge based on more than 40 years of research and had benefited from contributions from scholars all over the world.

In adopting the CEFR, the Education Ministry was providing the children with the best material available, she said.

“It’s essential for all stakeholders to support the changes being introduced to ensure that our children get the material they need to learn English effectively,” Prof Dr Zuraidah added.

Teachers, she added, must be given appropriate training and needed to have confidence in the new material.

“This means that the textbooks used for teaching English must be aligned with the CEFR and the knowledge it incorporates about language teaching.

“International publishers have been working on the CEFR for many years, so they have a head start.

“The challenge for local writers and publishers of English textbooks is to produce quality textbooks for use in Malaysian classroom,” Prof Dr Zuraidah said.

Describing the move as significant, the faculty’s senior lecturer Dr Surinderpal Kaur said it showed that the ministry was committed to improving English proficiency.

But she warned that the books were merely resource materials.

To improve proficiency levels, other factors such as the proficiency and aptitude of the teachers, their mode of delivery, continuity and sustainability of the prog­ram­me, and attitude of the students themselves must come into play, she said.

“It’s too early to predict with certainty, but there will be improvements for sure as the new books are well written,” she added.

While acknowledging that the textbooks were expensive, Dr Surinderpal pointed out that they were of good quality.

“It’s a necessary short-term start for the programme as we currently do not have adequate local resource materials,” she said.

“But the exchange rate and price of the books are things to be concerned about in the long term.
Read more @